Thursday, April 21, 2011

Robo-AO is Moving Forward

The Robo-AO team is back on Palomar for another week of testing new equipment on our 60-inch telescope. I have blogged about Robo-AO before, but for those who don't know, the Robo-AO system will soon be the world’s first laser-guide star adaptive-optics system working on a robotic telescope. When it is in operation it should deliver ultra-sharp imaging for up to hundreds of targets per night.

The system began as a fully-working testbed has been operating at Caltech in the Cahill Center for Astronomy and Astrophysics basement for several months. Starting last fall the team has been given some engineering time every few months to gradually bring the system up and on the Palomar 60-inch telescope.

In September of last year they had their first propagation of their ultraviolet (UV) laser into the sky as a guide star for adaptive optics. Earlier this year they were able to successfully have the beam sent up the telescope's axis and measure the return.

The team is back at Palomar this week for the installation of new equipment and further testing.

In the image above notice the new electronics rack mounted on the telescope at right. In the center is part of their new adaptive-optics instrument and the black box at left is the laser.

Their are still additional components to integrate into the system, but it is expected that start of the science demonstration period will commence in late summer.

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